Queen's Head avoids receiving the chop
A POPULAR Exeter pub has been saved from demolition thanks to a pint-sized David v Goliath campaign by regulars.
More than 1,000 people registered their objections to plans to bulldoze the Queen's Head near Polsloe Bridge in Pinhoe Road and turn it into a supermarket.
And more turned up with hand-made banners and non-stop "save our pub" chants outside Exeter's Civic Centre when planners came together to decide the pub's fate.
Their efforts won them the argument – and praise for the way they had rallied round to keep the demolition men at bay.
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They packed the committee room and burst into applause when, after a lengthy debate, councillors decided unanimously to throw out an application from frozen food giants Farm Foods which would have seen the pub, built in 1931, flattened and a supermarket built on the site.
The owner, Spirit Pub Company, has already sold the pub to Farm Foods in a silent auction. Farm Foods is not expected to appeal the planners' decision.
The current landlords have ambitious plans to take over the pub and run it as a viable community facility.
The pub hopes to be able to buy beer more cheaply once it is no longer tied to a parent company.
Delighted landlord Sean Martin, who also runs the nearby Devon Yeoman pub, said he was under the impression that Farm Foods would not appeal.
"They are the freeholder and we have the tenancy with an option to purchase the freehold from them. There was a very small difference in the offers we made to buy the pub.
"This is a very popular pub, and although we have only been here a relatively short time, we know how much people appreciate it. Some regulars have been coming here for 50 years.
"Now we are looking forward to the future. We have set ourselves goals, we can see the potential and we have the people to make it work.
"I am still in a state of shock because we expected it to be a lot closer than it turned out, and we have to thank all those who rallied round to save the pub.
"This was simply a case of power to the people."
Concerns were raised by councillors considering the Farm Foods bid over access to the site off busy Pinhoe Road and, in particular, the loss of what was seen as a vital community asset.
Councillor Ian Martin stressed the Queen's Head was a family pub and although there were other pubs within half a mile they were not of the same type.
"To give you some idea of the nature of the pub, on Christmas Day police arrived at the Queen's Head. A young woman who had suffered domestic abuse had been asked where she could be taken where she would feel safe. She said the Queen's Head. That is the sort of pub it is."
Councillor Jake Donovan said he had never been to the pub but had been inspired by the community's campaign.
"This is all about what people want. We have seen their protest outside and in the press and we cannot stand by and see this pub demolished."
Committee chairman Phil Bialyk, who once lived opposite the pub, said: "We have had an interesting and well-humoured debate and it is good to see people getting together and campaigning for a real local issue."
The plan was finally rejected on the basis that it would see the unnecessary loss of a community facility.